Customers left out in the cold with ban on alcohol if outdoor venues 50% enclosed

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Despite arctic conditions, Licensing Standards Officers, (LSO’s) are now telling hospitality businesses that any outside space that doesn’t adhere to the smoking legislation specification of an outdoor smoking area cannot serve alcohol outside.

This means that marquees, pods and gondolas, usually booked for one family, which have been erected, and put in outside locations by pub, hotel and restaurant owners, cannot be used for alcohol if they are more than 50% enclosed. That restriction will now stay in place until Scotland moves down to the next level.

This effectively means customers inside these outdoor spaces can only have soft drinks with their food, while customers on a table in the same outside space, but not enclosed, can have the same meal with whatever alcohol they wish.

However, if customers are sitting freezing outside, they can still be served alcohol until 10pm while the enclosed space of a gondola beside them, holding one family, which is also outside, has to close at 8pm.

These same outdoor areas were allowed last year, despite the same regulations being in place, and the First Minister was actually pictured in one at Cold Town House in Edinburgh.

The move branded “farcical“ by the trade is said to have been a move instigated by Glasgow Licensing Board who raised the issue with the EHO in Edinburgh.  It has now been branded a ‘national concern’ and licensees have already been ordered to stop using them in Edinburgh for at least the next 11 days despite the fact that they were used last year……but nothing has changed they say.

It joins the list of other ‘confusing’ regulations where you can have a wedding function with 50 people from all over the UK drinking alcohol inside, perhaps adjacent to a couple from Scotland out on a first date who are not permitted to drink alcohol……are you still following?

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sought to reassure the hospitality industry as it reopened that there would be no change regarding the enforcement of rules from last year. That it would be business as usual. This now appears not to be the case. Although the definition of outside and inside was in the regulations last year –  pods, gondolas’ and marquees were able to serve customers alcohol when the industry was open in 2020 without any challenge.

Said one owner, “The rules for outside have been part of the guidance since last July. What’s different now is the enforcement. What was fine last July isn’t fine now. Where businesses have tried to innovate, they’ve been thwarted.

“This effectively makes a mockery of the trade’s attempts to keep their customers safe and warmer. It also undermines the investment we have made in our outdoor areas.

“We are not living in Spain; this is Scotland, and it is freezing. This is just another kick in the teeth especially when there is no evidence of transmission in these areas.”

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality group said, “This again shows how confusing all this is, not just for the operators, but for customers too. We have had a full year of this, and with 11 days to go, a pragmatic and sensible approach is needed. People from different households can travel miles in a taxi together, but one family can’t enjoy a meal in one of these places whether drinking alcohol or not. Seems nonsensical to me.”

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